State College Bird Club

September 27, 2017

State College Bird Club Meeting, September 27, 2017

Presiding: Doug Wentzel

Recording: Debra Grim

Attendees: 40


Checklist: 158 species reported since September 1, including American Golden Plover, Barn Owl, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Clay-colored Sparrow.

Treasurer report (Jean Miller): $2,338 in checking, $19,563 in savings.

Field trips: Scotia Barrens, September 30 at 7:30 am. Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch with Juniata Valley Audubon, October 21.

Laura Jackson has bird-friendly coffee for sale, grown by Honduran coffee farmer Emilio Garcia.

President Doug Wentzel addressed the direction of the Club for the coming year. He would like to be able to record and report the number of hours of volunteer activity (bird counts, eBird data entry, etc.) performed by members. He challenged us to increase the number of species reported in eBird for Spring Creek Park, which stands at 60, compared to 127 in Sunset Park.

Shaver’s Creek will re-open in the spring. A volunteer is needed who will commit to one half day per week in the raptor center.

Millbrook Marsh will have a “Beer and Gear” Big Sit on October 8.


September Speaker: Sandy Lockerman: Hummingbirds: Flying Jewels and Flower Kissers

Sandy, who suggests that her hummingbird obsession approaches the “fine line between a hobby and a mental illness,” explained the adaptations of hummingbirds—color, flight, tongue, and torpor.

Rather than pigments deposited in feathers during their development, much of the showy color in hummers is structural, depending on the angle at which light is reflected from mirror-like platelets coating feather surfaces. Brightly colored gorgets and helmets help the birds recognize each other as competitors or potential mates.

Hummingbirds can hover and fly up, down, and backwards. One quarter of the bird’s weight consists of pectoral muscles that power stiff wings that move in a horizontal figure eight at 50-75 beats per minute, giving the bird a forward speed of 25-40 mph.

The hummingbird tongue, often compared to a straw, is much more complex. It is deeply forked and fringed, to lap up nectar 15-20 times per second.

These tiny birds have a huge energy output and they have no downy insulation. To lower their energy needs at night, they can go into torpor, in which body temperature drops and heartbeat slows.

Hummingbirds are unique to the Western Hemisphere. They have enriched Native American mythology, believed to hitch rides on the backs of goose or cranes, appearing as gods in some cultures, and portrayed by Nazca Lines in Peru. They ranged in size from the tiny Bee Hummingbird in Cuba to the Giant Hummingbird in the Andes. Fifteen species breed in the United States.

Females tend to be larger than the males, display little or no iridescence, and raise their chicks alone while defending their own feeding territories. Males guard a territory and seek to mate with as many females as possible and do all this so aggressively that they only live a couple years, compared to 3-4 years for females. One female known to live a record nine years may have remained in the southern US rather than migrate.

Banding hummingbirds requires a special permit. There are only about five banders in Pennsylvania. The tiny aluminum bands are hand-made and hard to acquire, but the chances of recovering banded birds is very low, so not much is known about their migration routes, but these tiny birds often fly right across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Sightings are reported and mapped on the website as the birds re-enter the U.S.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds almost entirely leave the U.S. each fall, the males going first and the juveniles last. Other species will show up in Pennsylvania during migration and some stay the winter. They subsist on conifer sap, insects, and sugar water in feeders.

Feeders should be stocked with a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water. Flowers like coral bells, penstemons, salvia, monardas, trumpet honeysuckle, and jewelweed attract them. Bees and wasps can be lured away from feeders by a tray containing a cloth soaked in a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water.

Minutes by Debra Grim